How to Cure a Headache Without Pills

Illustration for article titled How to Cure a Headache Without Pills

So you've got a headache. Whatever the cause — too much looking at screens, too much whisky, your needy cat spent the night showing how important you are to her by walking across your pillow and purring as hard as she possibly could — the throbbing in your cranium now threatens your ability to be productive for the rest of the day. While you might normally take an ibuprofen and be done with it, what do you do if there's no magical headache pill to be found? How are you going to get out of this mess?

There are about as many ways to banish a headache as there are ways to mute Chris Brown videos and play more hilarious songs over the top, so let's start with the simplest and work to the more complex. A headache is basically like that "check engine" light in your car's dashboard. It's an annoyingly unspecific warning, but it can also usually be quelled with a minor adjustment. Or, you know, it could mean that your engine/head might be about to explode. The cause and cure for migraines are still a horrible mystery, and so the types of headaches we're talking here are the plain, run-of-the-mill variety that don't make you wish you had never been born. If you have migraines, I wish you godspeed, but I cannot help you.

When you feel a headache coming on, first, try drinking water — a lot of water. It's Dodai's favorite trick for ridding herself of the dreaded head vise. Don't get heavy handed with the cold, though; drinking water that's frigid can give you even more of a headache. Keep it room temperature. Drinking peppermint tea may help, but be careful when fighting headaches with caffeine; you might just make it worse. Try eating something; almonds, for example, contain a compound that can help with head pain.


While drinking very cold water can make a headache worse, I've found that putting medium-cold things on my head can offer temporary relief. As someone who sits around staring at a screen all day like some kind of blogging vegetable, I often get tension headaches behind my eyeballs. When that happens, I'll take a five minute break and lie on my back in a darkened room with a slightly-cooler-than-room-temperature damp washcloth on my forehead or over my eyes. Another thing that works well is eucalyptus or peppermint oil-infused lotion cooled in the fridge or freezer and dabbed behind the earlobes and at the nape of the neck combined with a neck self-massage (sounds way dirtier than it is). Start by pressing two fingers on both hands firmly into the space behind your ears and jaw, and then work your way back to the base of your skull, pressing firmly but not squeezing in 1-2 second increments. Then, work your way down your neck. Repeat as necessary. If I don't have fancy lotion, I use just plain old unscented lotion, but I always pop it in the fridge or freezer for 10 minutes so it's nice and cold.

If you've got a partner around, and you're on good enough terms with them that you're okay with them squeezing your head, have them place the palm of their hand about where your "third eye" is — between and slightly above the innermost points of your eyebrows. Have them place their other hand on the back of your head, and press. For some reason, this action always makes my tension headaches go away for at least a couple of minutes.

Focus on how you're holding your body up. Are you clenching your jaw? Is your tongue pressing against the roof of your mouth? If you are, then stop; both of those actions can cause headaches. So, too, can slouching, holding tension in your neck, and gum chewing.

But the causes of your headaches may actually be in your mind.

When I was a wee, dumb lass in college, I so enjoyed the mental break that a 10 minute walk gave me that I took up smoking cigarettes freshman year so I'd have an excuse to go outside every so often and just be left alone with all of my gurgling, incredibly important feelings. That did wonders to banish my headaches — until I realized that I was sort of hooked on cigarettes and needed to smoke in order to not have a headache. It's been about 5 years since I quit, but let my stupidity be a lesson to all of you: taking a walk every once in awhile, or at least getting outside for small amounts of time, can do wonders to get rid of headaches and clear your head. Meditation also works. Just figure out a way to do it that isn't carcinogenic, okay?


One to-remain-nameless person on this site's masthead swears that nothing cures a headache like some self-diddling. You heard me. Double clicking the ol' mouse. Hitchhiking south. Playing Clitar Hero. A good, healthy orgasm can cure all sorts of things. Just, uh, don't do this at work.

Another nameless person who works here swears that marijuana, when obtained legally through humane, non-Mexican death causing means (looking at you, gentle Vancouverites) can blast through every headache with a gentle purple haze that magically turns Aqua Teen Hunger Force from something that makes you slightly uncomfortable to something hilarious.


If all else fails, do what Jessica recommends — lie around and whine. The curling up into a fetal ball sometimes helps, but the whining doesn't really fix anything. On the other hand, it certainly doesn't hurt.

Everyone's headaches are different, and so obviously different tricks are going to work for different headaches and different people. And I'm not a doctor, nor do I play on on TV, so if you put cool, fresh smelling lotion behind your ears and end up getting leprosy, don't come crying to me.


But look at what we've accomplished today! Where there was a dull throb, there's now a renewed sense of vigor and pep! You could appear in an ad for turn of the century Coca-Cola.

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I tend to get terrible headaches the first day or two of my period, and I have no idea how to get rid of them. It'll be an entire day of a dull pounding ache all over my head, not just one section. I'll take take 3 ibuprofen (600mg) at once and it might help a bit, but the pain is still there all friggin' day. Does anyone know period-headache cures? (I looked into Midol, but apparently it's just ibuprofen!)